Nightly News

Nightly News   |  July 27, 2011

After more than 100 years, Walter Reed closes

In a cost-cutting move, Walter Reed Army Medical Center will close its doors for good. The hospital treated many of the country’s wounded soldiers, including 18,000 Americans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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KATE SNOW, co-anchor: A military tradition, a Washington institution fades into the history books tonight as Walter Reed Army Medical Center closes its doors. NBC 's Jim Miklaszewski looks at a place that treated everyone, from privates to presidents.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI reporting: For more than a hundred years Walter Reed has been on the front lines of military medicine , from World War I until today, carrying for Americans wounded in war. Colonel Norvell Coots is the commander at Walter Reed .

Colonel NORVELL COOTS: This has been such an important place of healing for all of them.

MIKLASZEWSKI: It's also an invaluable piece of American history .

Dr. JOHN PIERCE: We're entering the sitting room of the Pershing Suite .

MIKLASZEWSKI: World War I General " Black Jack " Pershing lived and died at Walter Reed . Dr. John Pierce says other flocked here for his military advice.

Dr. PIERCE: And so two-star General George S. Patton came here to this room, got down on his knees on this rug.

MIKLASZEWSKI: Right here?

Dr. PIERCE: Right here. And General Pershing blessed him before he went off to war.

MIKLASZEWSKI: President Dwight Eisenhower died here in 1969 , and for decades every commander in chief has been drawn to Walter Reed in times of war. Over the past 10 years, 18,000 Americans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated here. Critical care nurse Rosemary Eddinger is inspired by their spirit and determination.

Ms. ROSEMARY EDDINGER: Young soldiers who all they want to do is get better to get back to their troops.

MIKLASZEWSKI: But in 2007 , a scandal broke over poor housing conditions for outpatients, which ultimately led to improved care militarywide. And where do the wounded go now? The more seriously injured will be moved to a new high-tech rehab center at Bethesda Naval Hospital . And what happens to Walter Reed ? The 113 acres here is prime real estate. The city of Washington gets most of it for commercial development and housing, even a center for the homeless. But Colonel Coots is confident the legacy of Walter Reed will live on.

Col. COOTS: Once you've been at Walter Reed , you can't get Walter